Shadow of the Past: The Impact of Franco on Modern-Day Spain…

This post is a lot heavier than any of my previous ones–mainly because it details how exactly the psycho-sociological scars of a nightmare that ended almost barely 40 years ago can still be felt here in Spain…For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m referring to the dictatorship of this man:

Franco

…Gen. Francisco Franco…

O.K., I’m going to try to give a little historical backdrop here (y mis españoles, no os enfadeís conmigo si me equivoco en algo)…In 1931, a Segunda [II] República was proclaimed, and with it came a constitution with a basis in liberalistic principles, such as universal suffrage and the secularization of the State…Hence, there came a lot of reforms that attempted to modernize the country…

The ultra-conservatives protested all of these initiatives, believing them to be too extreme…When the Frente Popular, a diverse coalition of liberals, won the elections in 1936, Franco and some of his other allies in the military decided that enough was enough with the “red” policies–and therefore, they executed a coup de’tat on July 18 that same year, which became the starting point of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)…

The Civil War here was something that truly divided and decimated the country…Friends, neighbors, and even family members were torn apart because of the whole issue of loyalty to whatever side they were on: los nacionalistas (Franco’s side) or los republicanos (the resistance)…Whole cities were completely razed, and the scattered bodies of victims, soldiers and civilians alike, were strewn everywhere the eye could see…A good artistic representation of all the chaos that went on is Guernica by Picasso, which depicts the aftermath of an “artillery test” (Read: bombing) on the town of the same name by some of Franco’s German allies…

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All the while, you couldn’t really place a “hero” label to either side, because both bands committed atrocities…

Unfortunately, the war ended with Franco’s victory, and for 36 years afterward, the people of Spain had to endure through much socio-economic hardship…

See, Franco considered himself to be the grand “savior” of España from the chaotic, evil Segunda República, and he saw himself as the means of returning the country to its former (16th-century) glory–And that entailed bringing back the traditionalist’s traditional Spain, where the official (and only) state religion is militant Catholicism, there is no legal political entity apart from el franquismo, and absolutely no mention is made of the Republic or the republicanos…And, if your foolish enough to blatantly speak out against this pure essences of España, then you’re asking for jail, “reeducation through labor”, or death for your audacity…

Therefore, he isolated Spain from any sort of “contaminating” international influence–i.e. no foreign trade, and heavy censorship of whatever foreign media did make it into the country…Hey, that might have entailed the starvation (physically and intellectually [illiteracy also abounded]) of millions of Spaniards, but hey, it’s better to have your people hungry and ignorant than negatively influenced by any godless doctrine (please note that this is sarcasm here)…

Eventually, Franco and his government died in 1975, bringing much rejoicing throughout the nation…Nevertheless, reminders of this dark time in history can still be seen…

Case-in-point: Salamanca…During the War, Franco lived here for like, a year, because Castilla was a region dominated by the nacionalistas…When walking down the streets, you can see various símbolos franquistas …

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The coat-of-arms found on the flag during the dictatorship on the building of Correos (the post office)…Traditionally speaking, the eagle, arrows, and yoke were associated with the Reyes Católicos (Fernando and Isabel)–therefore, you can see the association Franco was making for himself here…

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La Plaza de los Caídos (The Plaza of the Fallen), where people who fought and died fighting for Franco were commemorated…

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La Avenida de Italia, a street whose name pays homage to Italy, another fascist country that supported Franco during the war (and afterwards)…

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Franco’s medallón in the Plaza Mayor, located where the medallones of all the major monarchs are (again with the association)…People often throw paint on it as a sign of their “reverence” for the man…

Of course, objects of this nature can be found all over the country, like…

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Valle_de_los_Caídos_(San_Lorenzo_de_El_Escorial)_01

…El Valle de los Caídos (The Valley of the Fallen)…

Technically during our first excursion, but I didn’t write about it because I didn’t particularly enjoy it all that much…Don’t get me wrong, the sight itself and the interior are rather beautiful–there’s just one problem: Franco and his right-hand-man José Antonio Primo de Rivera, along with over 30,000 fallen from both sides in the war, are buried here…I don’t know–the fact that this guy is buried with people who died from a conflict that he started in a monument supposedly built to “honor” them did not sit well with me…At all…

And the lasting impact of Franco is mental as well…Both my host parents lived during the dictatorship–my Host Dad moreso because he’s a little over a decade older than my Host Mom…When I tried to ask him if he had any sort of somewhat personal memories or experiences of this time that he could tell me, he said that he did, but he doesn’t want to talk to me about it–not out of any sort of issues with me, but because it’s an era that those who lived through it don’t want to talk about…As I looked into his intense blue eyes as he was telling me this, I could see that there’s definitely a lot of emotional scars that have been made that are still there for him…

Y a mis españoles: Lo sé que sólo soy una guiri que aún no entiende, y jamás  comprederá completamente, lo que pasó en esta época, porque no viví en este país en este tiempo…Sin embargo, quiero deciros algo de mi corazón: Todos los países tienen alguna parte de su historia que les da vergüenza…Entonces, cuanto difícil que suene, se necesita aceptar que, desafortunadamente, que, sí, Franco y su gobierno existieron–pero esto no debe afectar su ni patriotismo (con la bandera y todo [he oído que se volvió menos popular llevar la bandera después de Franco, o algo]) ni el orgullo que teneís de ser y llamaros españoles…

On a final note, I find it interesting that people speak out against/criticize dictatorships in Africa, Asia, and South America when, not even 100 years ago, they existed in Europe–the Western, “civilized” world…

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8 thoughts on “Shadow of the Past: The Impact of Franco on Modern-Day Spain…

  1. rosa ogburn says:

    great history info…about were his body is if the peeps allow it to remain there and not have it removed o well….. and what was that last part in spanish?

  2. thefriendlyghost92 says:

    …Thanks, Ma…The problem is nobody wants to possibly disturb someone’s final resting place…And I said something basically along the lines of, while I’m just a foreigner that won’t understand COMPLETELY what went on here (due to not having lived through it), I feel that every nation has a part of their history that they’re not proud of, and that what happened here shouldn’t affect their pride of being Spaniards…

    • rosa ogburn says:

      i feel we all sould take a page from the Jewish People… talk aboutit and NEVER FORGET!!!!!! or history WILL REPEAT….

      • thefriendlyghost92 says:

        …That’s true, but you also have to keep in mind the fact that it takes a few generations for wounds like this to heal…For instance, it’s only been recently that it’s been cool to rock the flag (like I also mentioned in my little message) because of how Franco utilized it (or so one of my professors have told me)…

  3. rosa ogburn says:

    i dont agree, after the war 1945 the JEWS said NEVER AGAIN, and they have kept that promise, so its on the people how they chose to re act…..

    • thefriendlyghost92 says:

      …Yeah, but still–Not everyone reacts the same to tragedy…And btw, the only reason it’s become cool to rock the flag again is because of the success of Spain’s national football team (esp. after the last World Cup)–so it’s just recently re-becoming a symbol of nationalist pride…

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